Reader's Guide

Playing by the Rules
  1. After her sister chooses to violate Rule Number One (Never Marry an Outsider), why does Louise decide to get involved with an Outsider at the expense of losing Medford?

  2. Ruby Rose grew up in an abusive foster-home environment. What ultimately happens to help her adjust to Lemon City life?

  3. With the Black Power movement, the Black Feminist movement, the close of the Vietnam War, and Watergate, why does the author choose to use the backdrop of the 1970s to tell her story?

  4. Louise resists falling in love with Medford. Is there anything about her that suggests she also may be running away from herself ? Why is she reluctant to make a commitment?

  5. The Rules are designed to protect the community of Lemon City from the outside world, but they are also guidelines for living together as a community. Are they effective in both areas? Does their usefulness change over time? How would The Rules affect your own community?

  6. Nana and Ole Miss Johnson have been rivals for years. Do you think there will ever be peace between them? What would need to occur to make this happen?

  7. Have you ever dated someone who is much older or much younger than you? How did it work out?

  8. Medford and Ruby Rose have a special relationship. Despite their differences, what do they have in common? As an adult, do you think you could have a significant friendship with a child?

  9. Theola has a big crush on Clement. What is it about her that prevents her from approaching him with her feelings head on? In your life, who has done most of the wooing-the man or the woman? Which do you prefer?

  10. Rules are sometimes made to be broken, and there are always exceptions to rules that are subject to interpretation. In which situations were The Rules somewhat flexible? How did Nana, Louise, and Medford use this to their advantage? Give some examples of times you've had to bend the rules, or laws, in your town? Was it justified?



Lemon City
  1. The Rules are designed to protect the community of Lemon City from the outside world, but they are also guidelines for living together as a community. Are they effective in both areas? Does their usefulness change over time?

  2. With all the tumult of the past century, why does the author choose the 1970's, the time of the Black Power movement, to set her story?

  3. Faye marries Harry to get away from Lemon City but doesn't realize that Harry might also be trying to run away from something himself. Why doesn't she recognize this? Did either of the two really love each other?

  4. Faye, Louise and Elvira are the same generation but have very different lives. What similarities do they share? How does the younger generation of women compare to their elders, Mrs. Johnson and Nana?

  5. Louise is as content to stay in Lemon City as Faye is anxious to leave. Why are the two so different? Although Louise abides by the Rules, she doesn't seem completely happy. What's missing?

  6. Although Harry never really belonged in Lemon City, his presence was not completely negative. Does he deserve his fate? Is his presence the beginning of the end for Lemon City?

  7. Faye's family wants the best for her but are unwilling to let go. Are they right to investigate Harry's background? What ultimately helps them accept Faye's decision to leave?

  8. Lemon City's isolation allows its residents the dignity and opportunity to prosper, an atmosphere that doesn't exist in the outside world. Could Faye have developed Nubian Silk without Lemon City? How much did her experience in Lemon City influence her later success?

  9. The rivalry that Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Dunlap share is both playful and serious. Why do two old ladies persist in battling each other over a tomato contest?

  10. The town and the Dunlap family see no benefit to having outsiders join their community. What threat do they represent?





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